Schellas Hyndman has tackled a lot of the problems that plagued him early in his MLS coaching career. He does not butt heads with players like he used to, almost never criticizes a player to the media and has built one of the strongest starting XI's in Major League Soccer on a tight budget while winning MLS Coach of the Year in 2010. I don't think anyone would want a different coach in charge right now and I certainly expect Hyndman's FC Dallas to bounce back in 2012.
However, for some reason slow starts to season campaigns have troubled the gaffer all three of his full seasons in charge. Interestingly, FC Dallas has gained just four points from the first five games of 2009, 2010 and 2011.
It's a bit unfair to pin 2009 on Schellas as he quickly identified the team was not up to par in MLS and turned over the roster almost completely from '09 to 2010. However, 2009 was a very bad start for Dallas that saw starting lineups with names like Blake Wagner, Steve Purdy, and Daniel Torres. To Schellas Hyndman's credit, FC Dallas won four of their last five games in 2009, just a win in Seattle on the final day from sneaking into the playoffs on the back of a miraculous scoring run from Jeff Cunningham.
Game 1: FC Dallas 1 Houston 1; Game 2: FC Dallas 2 Columbus 2; Game 3: New York 2 FC Dallas 1; Game 4: FC Dallas 2 Seattle 2; Game 5: FC Dallas 1 New England 1
In 2010, Dallas' slow start was mainly down to their inability to keep a clean sheet. Rookies Zach Loyd and George John worked their way into the starting lineup very early, but understandably took some time to find the defensive form that pushed FCD all the way to MLS Cup.
FC Dallas would go on to lose just 1 of the next 23 games after this on what was arguably the best team in franchise history.
Game 1: FC Dallas 1 Chicago 1; Game 2: San Jose 2 FC Dallas 0; Game 3: Columbus 2 FC Dallas 0; Game 4: FC Dallas 3 Colorado 0; Game 5: Portland 3 FC Dallas 2
Another slow start, though this was the first season where fans went into things with expectations of success. Coming off the MLS Cup run in 2010, you could excuse some Dallas fans for thinking the first 5 games would bring a nice amount of points in the bag. Two lackluster performances at home against Chicago and San Jose to start the season quickly tempered those feelings. To be honest, I can't really explain those performances other than the team wasn't quite into battle mode yet. Dallas quickly recovered to destroy Colorado in the game where Fabian Castillo and David Ferreira terrorized the champs.
Much like 2010, after a loss to Portland in which Dallas nearly came back from a 3-0 deficit, the team would roll on a nine game unbeaten streak.
Defensive struggles For whatever reason, FC Dallas has greatly struggled defensively to open the season. 10 goals allowed in 2009, 8 goals allowed in 2010 and 8 goals allowed in 2011 is simply not good enough to get results. Perhaps the strangest thing about the porous defense is that in 2010 & 2011, years where Schellas had the desired back four, the defense gets remarkably better after those first five games.
In 2010, it took 13 more games for FCD to allow the 8 goals that they did in the first 5 games. In 2011, Dallas would allow just 2 goals in their next 7 games after allowing 8 goals in the first 5. If I had more time, I would see if that was a league-wide phenomena or something that has simply plagued FCD.
First Three Games Amazingly, Hyndman coached teams are 0-6-3 in the first three games of the season. Of those nine games, six of them were played at home as well. For whatever reason, Dallas just has not done well to start the season. In fact, Dallas has played the first two games of the season at home in every year under Schellas Hyndman and that tradition will continue again this season.
Could the trend continue? The first three games of 2012 are going to be tough ones as well. New York, Portland and Sporting KC are all sides that look to be in the top half of the league this season. Also, while I have no doubts that Blas Perez will be a very effective MLS forward this season, it would not surprise me at all to see him struggle at first to catch up to the speed of the league as he nears full fitness.
There is also the fact that Brek Shea will very likely miss games 2-4 of the season as he joins the United States for Olympic Qualifying. Perhaps the most interesting thing of all, however, will be the effect that George John has on the defense should he return from West Ham. It would be shocking to see Dallas concede 8-10 goals like in years past with a Benitez, John, Ihemelu, Loyd back four.